Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:  Jim Inhofe
Date: Feb. 13, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, let me, first of all, respond to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. I agree. We have talked about the anguish.

We had a hearing yesterday where the service chiefs discussed the disaster facing our armed forces if we go through sequestration. I do not think most Members of this body fully understand what it means, not just to the defense of our country as a whole, but to each of the individual States.

In my State of Oklahoma, I am very concerned about Tinker Air Force Base and its 16,000 civilian employees. What is going to happen there?

Anyway, let me just wind up this part by saying I have been ranked as the most conservative Member for many years. But I have always said: I am a big supporter of using our resources in two areas: One is national defense and the other is transportation and infrastructure.

A short while ago, the majority leader was kind enough to call my office and tell me I would be objecting to the consideration of the nomination of former Senator Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

However, this is not a filibuster. I keep getting stopped by people out in the hall: Oh, we are going to filibuster. Who is going to filibuster?

What we are doing is not a filibuster. We are seeking a 60 vote threshold for a controversial nomination. If the majority really wanted to move forward quickly, all they have to do is agree to a 60-vote margin, like they did with the Sebelius and Bryson nominations.

In addition, as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am obligated to assist the members of the committee.

First of all, the vote in the committee was a 100-percent partisan vote. Every Republican there voted against moving the Hagel nomination out of committee. Well, there has to be a reason for that.

One of the reasons--the major reason, I would say--and if you do not believe this, go back and look at the tape of the meeting yesterday where many of our members said: Why is it we are rushing to confirm Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense when he has not given us the information we have requested? One such Member is the junior Senator from Texas, who is in the Chamber with me right now.

But let me first clarify there is nothing unusual about requesting a 60-vote threshold. This happens all the time. I can remember when the majority leader agreed to a 60-vote threshold in the 2009 nomination of Kathleen Sebelius. She was confirmed.

There is nothing unusual about a 60-vote threshold.

John Bryson was nominated to be the Secretary of Commerce. Several of us had concerns about this nomination. Ultimately, he was confirmed. But once again the entire Senate agreed to a confirmation vote by a 60-vote margin.

I can remember when the majority leader--let me say this about the majority leader. He has been exceptionally good to me on things I have been involved in. I have two major bills that were my bills. One was in concert with Barbara Boxer--the highway bill. Frankly, I could not have gotten it passed without them. Another was my pilots' bill of rights. I could not get a hearing on it in committee. I tried for a year. He stepped in and helped me. I have said in national publications I could not have gotten it passed without Leader Harry Reid. So we have a very good relationship, and one which will continue.

However, Senator Reid, on numerous occasions, was concerned about Republican nominations. During the Bush Presidency, Stephen Johnson--who, incidentally, was a Democrat--was nominated to be EPA Administrator. I thought he would be good Administrator. There were several Democrats who thought he would not be good Administrator. So Harry Reid did what he is supposed to do, and he interceded on behalf of the Democrats who opposed him. As result, cloture was filed and, therefore, the nomination needed 60 votes to proceed. Well, the Administrator got 61 votes.

Another example was Dirk Kempthorne. He was nominated to be Secretary of the Interior. My colleagues will remember he is a former Senator from Idaho. Some objected to his confirmation. Of course, this was during the Bush administration. Senator Kempthorne was nominated, and he went ahead and was confirmed. It was a 60-vote margin. There is nothing unusual about this.

Getting back to Stephen Johnson, this is even more analogous to what we have right now because he was a Democrat who was nominated by a Republican President. Unfortunately, once again we were forced by the Democrats to have a cloture vote which requires 60 votes.

Stephen Johnson was a Democrat. So here we had the Republicans wanting Stephen Johnson and the Democrats not wanting Stephen Johnson. It is very analogous to what we have today. Today, we have former Senator Chuck Hagel, who is a Republican.

But in this case, we have a situation where cloture has been filed by the majority leader. I have no objection to voting. I do not want to wait. I do not want to string this out. I have other places to go other than hanging around here. I would vote tonight if we could just get the information that has been requested by the Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Keep in mind, the Hagel nomination was reported out of committee by a 100-percent partisan vote. All Republicans voted against sending him out. Why did they do it? They did it because we have not gotten the information we want.

I have a letter. This is a letter that is signed by 25 Republicans stating that we have not received the information necessary for a proper vetting of the Hagel nomination.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent it be printed in the RECORD.

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Mr. INHOFE. This letter is signed by several Senators, but it was promoted, more than by anyone else, by the Senator from Texas. The Senator has repeatedly requested this information. I have personally heard Senator Cruz request this information, just yesterday, and on several previous occasions.

In a previous letter, he said: We express our concern--several Senators also signed this letter--on the unnecessary rush to force through a vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination before he has been able to respond adequately to multiple requests from members of the Armed Services Committee for additional information.

I'm reading now from the letter: Those requests have included a request to Chuck Hagel for the disclosure of his personal compensation he has received over the past 5 years.

We are talking about Chuck Hagel.

This is information which he controls. He can provide this information. It is there.

The letter also requests the disclosure of foreign funds he may have received indirectly. This is important because some have raised questions of a potential conflict of interest.

Why does he not want to disclose this? Somehow he would like to be confirmed without disclosing this information.

As Senators we have a responsibility here. I do not care if you are a Democrat or Republican. If a member of the Armed Services Committee requests this information and the information is available and he is able to obtain it and does not provide it, we have a process problem.

Mr. President, my primary objection to Chuck Hagel's confirmation is for policy reasons. That is why I think he is not qualified for that job. Others do not agree with that. That is fine. But they have to agree on the process.

In fact, I cannot remember--and I have been on the Armed Services Committee in both the House and Senate for 25 years. I do not remember one time when information that was requested, which was perfectly within the purview of the committee was not provided. This has not happened. This is unprecedented.

I heard some people say: you are filibustering a Cabinet appointee. That is not what we are doing. What we are trying to prevent is an unprecedented event where committee members do not receive information which is important for Members to have in order to consider a nomination.

So I will continue to read the letter.

The letter includes a request for a complete list of his prior public speeches, notably, multiple additional speeches on controversial topics that have been made public by the press.

For example, I understand FOX News is going to run a story tomorrow regarding some speeches made by former Senator Hagel. If so, these speeches would certainly give rise to a lot of interest because, I have been informed, we are talking about speeches which were made and paid for by foreign governments. I have also been told, some of these foreign governments may not be friendly to us.

Therefore, I believe Senators are entitled to review this information. Are we entitled to that? Yes; we are entitled to that.

So this letter includes a request for a complete list of his prior public speeches, notably, additional speeches on controversial topics that have been made public in the press, despite those speeches having been omitted from his own disclosure.

I remember in the early stages of the confirmation process, requests were made of Senator Hagel about information we knew existed because the press had written about it in the past. Some may argue that Senators are not entitled to review these speeches. I disagree. A member of the Armed Services Committee has a responsibility to review that information.

The letter also makes the critical request from the administration for additional information on their precise actions during and immediately following the tragic murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

Regardless, if the administration has answered these questions, the Senate is entitled to review speeches that have been made by the person who is up for confirmation to be Secretary of Defense.

I would say to the majority leader, the request for a 60 vote threshold is based on precedent. It is what the majority leader agreed to on the John Bryson and Kathleen Sebelius nominations. It is what he insisted upon when the Democrats forced cloture to be filed on the Dirk Kempthorne and Stephen Johnson nominations. There are several others. Michael Leavitt was one. John Bolton went through this twice. We all remember Miguel Estrada. We remember ROBERT PORTMAN, now one of our fellow Senators.

So there is nothing unusual about this. But there is a problem with the process we are entering now. That process is, we have made requests--I am talking about Members such as Senator Cruz from Texas and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who have made perfectly reasonable requests for information. In this case, it is on speeches reportedly made to foreign audiences. However, these concerns can be clarified in a matter of minutes.

That is why we should not rush. If this information is provided we could resolve this matter tonight. The information is out there. I have personally talked to Senator Cruz. He said: Look, if they will just give us that information we have been requesting now for weeks, we can have the vote tonight.

That is our reasonable request. We are not talking about merits. We are not talking about substance. We are talking about a process. Never before in my memory has a Senate Armed Services member's reasonable request been denied before someone has come up for a confirmation. It is a simple request. It has been done on a regular basis. A 60-vote margin is not a filibuster. We are merely saying the Senate is entitled to this information. Hopefully, this will jar some of the information loose. Maybe we can get it now. I hope we do.

I want to move this on and move it as rapidly as possible.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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